Daytonian of the Week: Michael Roediger, Dayton Art Institute

Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2018 @ 10:08 AM

Daytonian of the Week Michael Roediger at Dayton Art Institute's Oktoberfest.
Daytonian of the Week Michael Roediger at Dayton Art Institute's Oktoberfest.

Michael Roediger has spent the last six years at the helm of one of the largest arts and cultural organizations in the Miami Valley — the Dayton Art Institute. 

We caught up with the museum’s director and CEO to talk about the museum, the Dayton arts community and what he loves most about life in Dayton.

Meet our Daytonian of the Week.

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What do you do? 

I am the Director and CEO of The Dayton Art Institute; Father to an incredible young man Richard A. Roediger and a four-legged kid Rosie the Boston Terrier; and a champion of Dayton and the arts.

Daytonian of the Week Micheal Michael Roediger with Dayton philanthropist Zoe Dell Nutter.(

How did you get involved with The Dayton Art Institute? 

I first got involved with the DAI when I was a child. My parents would drop me off at Saturday School for art classes. Some classes were for both parents and children and my Dad would attend with me. Those are some of my favorite memories with my Dad growing up. Professionally, I came to the DAI nearly seven years ago when I was tapped by Linda Lombard and Rob Connelly to come and lead the museum. 

>> 5 things to know about origami exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute

What superpower would you love to have? 

The power to share empathy. We need empathy more than ever and seem to be lacking it more than ever before. 

Michael Roediger, director and CEO of the Dayton Art Institute, makes 450 penguins follow his movements. The "Penguins Mirror" by artist Daniel Rozin was part of the exhibit "The Antarctic Sublime & Elements of Nature: Water". LISA POWELL / STAFF

What are your hopes for the arts in Dayton? 

That they continue to grow, flourish and become more inclusive so that everyone in our community feels welcome to enjoy our rich arts scene. 

>> Best of Dayton 2017 Winners: Culture, Music & Entertainment


What do you love about leading the Art Institute?  

The people I get to work with and the people that support the museum. Also, getting to work in such an iconic building filled with treasured objects is a gift. 


What are the biggest challenges and joys of leading such an important institution? 

The biggest challenge seems to always come down to funds. We are in a much better place than we were six years ago, but we still need to grow our endowment so that we can support the facility, the collection, and take care of our staff. I encourage everyone in the community to become a DAI member. Membership supports our mission of enriching the community with meaningful experiences with art and is a great value with its many benefits. The biggest joys are when we open a new exhibition or create a new experience in the collection galleries. It is always rewarding to witness children come in to the museum for the first time and see them have a sense of awe for the building and art. 

Richard and Michael Roediger. Michael Roediger is Daytonian of the Week.


Where do you go for a great time? 

I am a big fan of “dating your city.” Dayton has so much to offer. I find as I get older, that going to dinner at one of my favorite local restaurants and seeing a movie at the Neon is a great night on the town. A great time can also be about anything with my teenage son Richard who has a better social life than I do.  

 >> Your 2018 Dayton Bucket List: 50 ideas for fun


What would you change about Dayton? 

 I think we have improved the great divide of the river, but we have a long way to go. I want to see Dayton become more inclusive of all people no matter their race, religion, culture, age, gender, or orientation. I would like Dayton to be the model for other cities.  

Area arts organizations, including the Dayton Art Institute, could potentially receive millions of dollars from the 2015-2016 state capital budget if recommendations from the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Quality of Life” committee are followed. DAI director and CEO Michael Roediger (pictured) would like to expand and improve art storage space, ensure the museum is fully accessible and upgrade heating and air conditioning if they are funded. LISA POWELL / STAFF(Lisa Powell)


What should people know about Dayton? 

That we represent the best in Midwest values. Daytonians take great pride in our history and are poised to make even more history. Bring your business or family to our community and we will welcome you with open arms. 


What is your favorite hidden gem in Dayton?  

Maybe not a hidden gem to everyone, but I think Dayton Visual Arts Center (DVAC) is a real gem that I wish more people would support. I am often confused when I go to local homes, businesses or offices and see commercial art. DVAC represents so many amazing working artists making it possible for everyone to have original art created right here in Dayton.  

>> 3 amazing ‘hidden gem’ restaurants to try near Dayton


Michael Roediger

What’s one word you think people would use to describe you? 

I hope people would say I am passionate about Dayton and our arts community. 


Why did you decide to settle in Dayton?  

I am homegrown and was born in raised in Trotwood. I went to the East Coast for about seven years. I missed my family and our community. I wanted my son to grow up around family and to be raised in the Midwest. Dayton is home.  

 >> Why did this local church close after 170 years?


What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years? 

I think our downtown and surrounding areas will continue to grow and see more people choosing to have a live and work life in downtown, which will create more opportunity for restaurants, retail and services for residents. I also think that with more people returning to the amenities of the city that we have more people wanting to have arts experiences within walking distance of their homes. I am amazed by the progress we have made in the last decade.

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Meet Elizabeth and David Furst: entrepreneurs, juicery owners and Daytonians of the Week

Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2018 @ 10:00 AM

David and Elizabeth Furst are the Daytonians of the Week for July 11, 2018. The couple own and operate the Santa Clara Juicery in Dayton.
David and Elizabeth Furst are the Daytonians of the Week for July 11, 2018. The couple own and operate the Santa Clara Juicery in Dayton.

This week’s featured duo for Daytonian of the Week are Elizabeth and David Furst.

You were first introduced to this couple with the announcement of the opening of their Santa Clara Juicery, which goes far beyond creating and delivering tasty drinks. 

>> Dayton has a new juicery and its owners hope it will be first step in revitalizing neighborhood

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We spoke with the Fursts about life in Dayton, what inspired their return to the Gem City, and how they hope to make an impact on a place that’s so close to their hearts.

>>PHOTOS: See the transformation of The Santa Clara Juicery

Tell us a little about your life growing up in Dayton, and what brought you back to the city? 

Elizabeth grew up in Dayton and worked at the family business, Evans Electric Company positioned in the Santa Clara district. Attended Dayton Christian School previously located in the Five Oaks area. Ran cross country for school and trained along the riverscape every day. 

David grew up in Minneapolis, Minn., but in 2004 met Elizabeth in Ohio while touring with his band. David and Elizabeth married in 2006 and relocated to Minneapolis. Since then, the couple has lived in several different states for work including Birmingham, Ala. and most recently Atlanta, Ga. 

After 12 years, David and Elizabeth returned to Dayton to purchase Evans Electric Company and continue the family business in Santa Clara. 

Having opened the Santa Clara juicery officially, what does it feel like to own and operate a business in your hometown? 

Opening a juice bar right next to my family’s business is nostalgic. I loved Santa Clara during the art district days. We would walk to have lunch at the Upper Crust or Evans Café every day in the summer. The art galleries and vintage shops would open up their spaces and hold art walks every now and then in the evening. Martin Sheen’s star is even on the sidewalk in Santa Clara. It was a cool time for the area. 

Today, the area does not resemble the arts scene. There is not one café or art gallery. We are hoping to change that. We are hoping to provide a community hangout, a place that provides hope, health and employment to an area that is in great need of new life. 

David and Elizabeth Furst are the Daytonians of the Week for July 11, 2018. The couple own and operate the Santa Clara Juicery in Dayton.

How has Dayton shaped your life and your business? 

We see Dayton from two different perspectives — David comes to Dayton with fresh eyes and Elizabeth remembers what Dayton was and what it can be again. We both see Dayton as a place full of opportunity! Dayton has a food desert, so its residents need more options for healthy food close to where they live. We hope to provide that with opening of the juicery and more businesses like a café or organic eatery in the Santa Clara community. 

What inspired you to become an advocate for food desserts in the area? 

Our juicing friends at the Downtown YMCA and Second Chance Ministries, Pastor Jimmy and Shari Mann revealed a real-life story of what food deserts really look like in Dayton. “The only grocery store on the west side of Dayton is an IGA where fresh produce is often unavailable or if it is, the produce is not fresh or even edible.” Pastor Mann asked about a banana one day and the store worker said they have not had bananas in awhile. This story broke our hearts. We are big juicers because we know the food we put in is vital to the prevention of disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer! 

What is it about Dayton that interested you both in staying here permanently? 

We moved back to Dayton to be near family now that we’ve started our own. We are continuing the family business and excited about bringing new life to a community where the family has been for over 25 years! Dayton is full of opportunity to grow a new business and create new jobs! 

If you could change/improve one thing about Dayton, what would that be? 

More city involvement in revitalizing the communities around downtown. 

David and Elizabeth Furst are the Daytonians of the Week for July 11, 2018. The couple own and operate the Santa Clara Juicery in Dayton.

Share a memory with us! 

Our business held the first neighborhood-wide cleanup day in Santa Clara in years. This was a great day with a lot of resident and business involvement that also included around 16 police officers and a food bank setup with items donated by Fresh Market. 

What do you find most inspiring about Dayton? 

We are starting to see more community gardens popping up near the Santa Clara area. This is inspiring because many children in the area have grown up not ever tasting fresh produce. 

We are also meeting many real-estate investors and general contractors who are purchasing vacant, boarded-up properties in the neighborhood and converting them into excellent and affordable living spaces. This means Dayton can make a comeback! 

What’s your favorite thing to do in Dayton? Favorite place to eat? Favorite shop? 

We love the Air Force museum, Boonshoft museum and Dayton Dragons games, especially with our kids. 

We love Warped Wing, Toxic Brew, Crafted and Cured, Wheat Penny, Thai 9 and the Butter Café. 

What do you see for the future of the Gem City in the coming 5 years? 

We hope to see new life in the communities surrounding downtown, especially the Santa Clara area! In five years, we hope to see new businesses, eateries, shops opened along North Main Street. More people biking in an area that is safer and maintained by the community’s residents as well as more involvement from the city of Dayton. 

>> A new House of Bread addition will focus on serving families with children

>> As grocers build in suburbs, food deserts grow in Dayton

>> County program brings healthy options to food deserts

>> Grocery targets Dayton food desert: ‘We’ve got to do something about it’

Want to meet the Fursts? Head to The Santa Clara Juicery at 1912 N. Main St., Dayton. You can also follow them on Facebook and connect with them through their website.

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Daytonian of the Week: Rachel Bankowitz, preserving the Gem City’s history

Published: Wednesday, July 04, 2018 @ 6:00 AM

Rachel Bankowitz is the preservation planner and the historic preservation officer for Dayton. CONTRIBUTED
Rachel Bankowitz is the preservation planner and the historic preservation officer for Dayton. CONTRIBUTED

Rachel Bankowitz is preserving Dayton for the future. 

If you’re an admirer of our city’s architecture, her roles as preservation planner and the historic preservation officer for Dayton, helps keep the city’s charm and history alive. 

Bankowitz manages the city’s 13 historic districts and numerous individual historic landmarks in Dayton.

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In April Gov. John Kasich appointed her to the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board, where she will lend her expertise to the state. 

So, what inspires Bankowitz, our Daytonian of the Week, about her role in the Gem City? Here’s what she said: 

How did you get into your current role with the City of Dayton? 

Like a lot of kids in Dayton, I couldn’t wait to go to college out of state. After graduating with my master’s in Historic Preservation, I spent 10 years working in the private sector as an architectural historian/preservation planner conducting surveys for, and documentation of, cultural resources throughout the Midwest. 

»»Then & Now: Images capture a vintage Gem City

Life was good, but one day I realized the importance of being near my family, who were still in Dayton. Out of the blue, I decided to check available employment with the City of Dayton and, as luck would have it, they were hiring for a general planner position. I applied and scored an interview and once they realized my skill set in preservation, offered me the role of Preservation Planner. The stars couldn’t have aligned any better and that’s how I knew it was time to come home. 

Rachel Bankowitz (second from left) presents casework to the City of Dayton's Landmarks Commission as part of her job. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

How long have you been in this role? 

I’ve been with the city for about five years. A lot of my time is spent managing our city’s 13 historic districts and all our individually-designated historic landmarks. I process all requests for Certificates of Appropriateness, and prepare and present casework to our city’s Landmark Commission. Of course, historic preservation encompasses more than my normal duties, and typically includes research, fieldwork, photography, grant writing, etc. My days are never the same, thankfully! 

How did you become interested in planning and historic preservation? 

I have an old soul and I’ve always enjoyed old houses. Growing up, nearly all of my relatives lived in older buildings. One New York relative had an apartment in an old Victorian house. To get to their unit, you entered through the original parlor, laden with heavy, elaborate, 19th-century woodwork and old-world charm. I remember being in awe of old architecture even as a young child. 

»»5 things to know about the area’s brewery and beer-making history

Why is historic preservation important? 

Historic preservation is important because it helps us understand our past. Everything has a history. Perhaps more importantly, it teaches critical thinking. To think historically is to recognize that all problems, all situations, all institutions exist in contexts that must be understood before informed decisions can be made. No entity — corporate, government, nonprofit — can afford not to have a historian/preservationist at the table. 

Tell me about one of your favorite historic sites/buildings in Dayton. Why is it special to you? 

That’s a difficult one for me. There are so many! What I love most about our historic sites/buildings, and old buildings in general, are the stories associated with them. I love looking at old newspaper articles because they offer a human perspective about these buildings. For example, the brick industrial building at 620 Geyer Street was once associated with the Underwood-Talmadge Company, who for many years supplied candy throughout the Midwest. The former single-family house-turned-funeral-home at 25 Indianola Avenue was originally owned by Frank J. Cellarius, who published the first street maps of Dayton in 1891. Every building has a unique story that I can’t wait to uncover. 

Fred Holley with the City of Dayton Landmarks Commission and Rachel Bankowitz with the City of Dayton. CONTRIBUTED

What local project have you worked on that you are most proud of? 

Since joining the City of Dayton, I have successfully nominated over 25 buildings to the Dayton Register of Historic Places, helping to ensure their preservation. This list includes some very iconic downtown buildings, like the former Biltmore Hotel (210 North Main Street), the former Dayton Young Men’s Christian Association Building (115 West Monument Avenue) and the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 125 North Wilkinson Street. I also successfully nominated the former Bimm Fireproof Warehouse (now Lincoln Storage) on East First Street to the National Register of Historic Places. 

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Governor Kasich recently appointed you to the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board. Tell me about that honor.

The Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board is appointed by the governor to advise the State Historic Preservation Officer and the Ohio History Connection Board of Trustees on historic preservation issues. The advisory board evaluates the significance of properties nominated to the National Register of Historic Places and makes recommendations to the State Historic Preservation Officer. 

The advisory board meets four times a year and includes a variety of professionals, including architects, historians, planners, architectural historians, archaeologists and public members from around the state who have expertise in Ohio history, architecture and archaeology. 

The advisory board reviews National Register nominations for 30-50 buildings, sites, structures, objects and historic districts each year and advises on the allocation of Certified Local Government grant funds for historic preservation projects in Ohio communities. 

I’m looking forward to learning more about what is going on throughout Ohio, so I can apply that knowledge to Dayton. 

Rachel Bankowitz, a preservation planner and the historic preservation officer for Dayton, said "I have an old soul and I’ve always enjoyed old houses." CONTRIBUTED

What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years? 

Aside from all the development happening downtown, I see the revitalization of some of our inner-city neighborhoods. I also envision a few more historic districts. 

What inspires you about the Dayton area? What should people know about Daytonians and the city? 

I know it’s been said before, but the resilience, perseverance and general goodness of our citizens. After living out of state for many years, I can proudly say that Daytonians are fundamentally “the salt of the earth.” We are reliable, trustworthy and straightforward. We recognize there are issues, but we continue to push forward. 

»»Dayton Arcade: When a 1904 party with performing bears and a vaudeville show opened a city gem

What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through it? 

My most recent challenge is not finished. I’m currently part of a team working to create a plan to improve North Main Street and its surrounding neighborhoods. It’s no surprise that this area has suffered from disinvestment for years, and community morale is low. However, through the planning process, I have met some wonderful, resilient, inspirational people. They are why I continue to push through the challenge. I want to do all I can to make life better for them. 

What would you change about Dayton? 

Preservation can be a hard sell here. There is sometimes an “out with the old, in with the new” mentality. For example, some might see a vacant, but otherwise structurally-sound house, and would prefer it be demolished than preserved. I understand not every old building can be saved, but I wish people would realize that many of our historic properties, including the Oregon Historic District, were vacant at one time and slated for demolition; however, people recognized the importance of the historic district, and fought for its preservation. They recognized that the architecture and quality of construction was too important not to save. Can you imagine Dayton without the Oregon Historic District? 

Rachel Bankowitz (center) is a preservation planner and the historic preservation officer for Dayton. This year Gov. John Kasich appointed her to the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Dayton and attended Corpus Christi. We lived off of North Main Street in the Santa Clara neighborhood until the mid-1980s when we moved to the suburbs. Even as a child, I missed the diversity of city life. Years later, I can honestly say I’d rather live in the city than the suburbs. 

»»10 downtown Dayton murals you have to see

What do you love about life in Dayton? 

I love the people, the fact that I don’t have to drive a car because I can bike or walk anywhere, and all the cultural amenities of a big city. 

What superpower would you love to have? 

The ability to make everyone laugh! 

Describe your perfect Dayton date.

My perfect Dayton date would be to get outdoors for some exercise, hiking, biking, or kayaking, and then refresh at one of our many local breweries. 

What Dayton area food do you love? 

I love the history and tradition of Esther Price. Their chocolate isn’t bad either!

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Daytonian of the Week: Grace Dietsch, Five Rivers MetroParks biologist

Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 1:28 PM

Grace Dietsch
(Grace Dietsch)

Dayton’s Five Rivers MetroParks has been raking in quite a few well-deserved props lately — including National Geographic to Canoe & Kayak Magazine shout-outs. Our access to outdoor recreation and exploration is hard to match.

Plentiful resources and natural spaces aren’t enough for a city to become a thriving outdoor destination. It takes the passion and hard work of Daytonians like Grace Dietsch, Five Rivers MetroParks biologist, to help make our city’s opportunities a reality. 

>>Magazine names Dayton one of the next big paddling towns

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>>Dayton gets ‘wild’ props after landing on National Geographic list

Before moving to Dayton in 2012, Dietsch frequently moved around the country for work — living in mountainous towns, once in a van by a river and other memorable locations — but said her roots have grown deeper in the Gem City since moving to the area. 

Through her research and commitment to Dayton’s wild spaces, Dietsch has been a crucial part in the MetroPark’s success and the reason she is our Daytonian of the Week.

>>WORTH THE DRIVE: Here’s where you can spend the afternoon tubing the Mad River on the cheap

Daytonian of the Week: Grace Dietsch, Five Rivers MetroParks Biologist(Jim McCormac)

What brought you to Dayton? Where are you from? 

“I moved to Dayton in 2012 when I moved in with the man who I now call my husband. We met while serving on the Ohio Interagency Wildland Fire Crew that same year and were both on the same two western wildfire assignments. When I first came to Dayton, I immediately got a great vibe from the community. I am from Rio Grande, Ohio, which has a population of around 800 people and throughout my adult life I’ve lived in various other places throughout Ohio, Virginia, Washington and Oregon. I’ve lived in small towns, college towns, mountain towns, and literally lived in a van by a river for a while. My roots were always very shallow, but they’ve grown rather deep here in Dayton!”

>>Meet the ‘Plante’ lady who has kept the MetroParks beautiful for 15 years

Daytonian of the Week: Grace Dietsch

Are there some cool plants or animals that are in the Dayton-area that people might not be aware of? 

“There is incredible species diversity here in the Dayton area! We have bobcats at Germantown MetroPark, bald eagles at Eastwood, and occasionally a black bear will pass through the Twin Valley

Englewood MetroPark has one of the healthiest and most diverse salamander populations in the entire state. Huffman Prairie has an amazing prairie that will be in full bloom soon – this is a great place to see hummingbirds by the dozens, butterflies galore, and several uncommon grassland birds. I could go on and on about the cool things you can find at every single one of the Five Rivers MetroParks locations.”

>>Want to start paddling? Dayton is the perfect place for it

>>Daytonian of the Week: Tom Helbig, founder of Tomfoolery Outdoors

Why did you become a biologist and what have you enjoyed about your job? 

“This is my dream job! From a very young age I have felt a strong desire to be a voice for the voiceless plants and animals with which we share this planet. I’ve always dreamed of being in a position where I could make a real difference and this is it! Five Rivers MetroParks is an amazing place to work. There are so many passionate and dedicated folks here and everyone strives to accomplish what MetroParks was created to do — to protect natural areas, parks and river corridors, and to promote the conservation and use of these lands and waterways for the ongoing benefit of the people in the region.”

Daytonian of the Week: Grace Dietsch(Grace Dietsch)

What’s been your favorite project or activity that you’ve done with the MetroParks? 

“My favorite activities involve volunteers. We have amazing volunteers who work with us on a regular basis – from growing and planting trees and wildflowers, removing invasive species, conducting habitat assessments, clearing trails, picking up fishing line around ponds, and participating on prescribed burns. They work so hard right alongside our staff and we truly couldn’t do a lot of these activities without their support.”

“If I had to pick one activity, I would have to say conducting prescribed burns is my favorite. A good fire regime does wonders for restoring and maintaining a prairie, so the rewards are huge. Carrying out a burn take a lot of strategic planning, hard work and collaboration. It requires the support from nearly all departments at Metroparks. Plus, nothing brings a team together like safely and successfully burning a large field of grass.”


Why is it important for a community to support their MetroParks? 

I can think of so many reasons! MetroParks exists to protect this community’s natural heritage – that means we are here to protect the biodiversity, native plants and animals, and cultural and historical components on more than 16,000 acres of land! We even have a policy that states we must keep at least 90% of lands we manage as natural area. Maintaining this much land as greenspace is good for the environment, good for the health of the community, and is good for the economic development of Dayton. MetroParks has 30 locations throughout the Dayton area that are clean and safe.”

Which MetroPark is your favorite? 

“Hmmmm….that might be the toughest question of them all. My favorite is the one I am working in that day. I know that sounds cliché, but I really do find something uniquely amazing about each and every location. They are all beautifully maintained by park staff and play an equally-vital role in our community’s natural environment.”

Describe your perfect day in Dayton! What would you do?

“My perfect day would start out with a seat next to one of the wetlands at the Great Miami Mitigation Bank before sunrise. I’d spend the morning peacefully observing the wildlife and enjoying my surroundings. Then I’d want to paddle down the Twin Creek with my family for a few hours, stopping to fish some of the deeper pools along the way. The 2nd Street Market would be open on my perfect day, so we’d go there for spanakopita and baklava for lunch. Then I would hit up some of the cool shops in the Oregon District for a little shopping spree. I would end the day at Woodman Fen Conservation Area to see the outstanding summer display of lightening bugs. I’d probably be hungry again, so I’d have to stop at Zombie Dogz for a seasonal dog concoction.”

What keeps you busy when you’re not working with the parks? 

“Our 20-month old daughter, 4 dogs, 2 cats, and 68 chickens! My husband and I bought a home on 10 acres last year. About 6 acres of that is wooded and I attempt to manage those woods like it’s my second job. The remaining acreage is pasture for future farm animals, a little bit of prairie and a LOT berry plants. It is a farm in the making and definitely keeps our family very busy.”

Why is Dayton special to you?

“I consider Dayton to be my second home. The people that live here are amazing and I have made so many good friends. There is great music, amazing places to eat, and really good local breweries. I have lived in mountains and foothills nearly all of my life and have a perpetual need to see big trees, hike steep ravines, and soak my feet in a cool, clear creek on a hot day. The fact that I can have all of these experiences, know such awesome people, and work at an amazing organization makes Dayton a very special and unique place to live.”

Daytonian of the Week: Grace Dietsch(Grace Dietsch)

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Fashion forward! Meet Daytonian of the Week Caressa Brown 

Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2018 @ 11:07 AM

Daytonian of the Week Caressa Brown
Daytonian of the Week Caressa Brown(Contributed)

Make no mistake, Caressa Brown has more than the look. 

The director of Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI),  is on the grind to strengthen Dayton’s fashion industry. 

She is the latest Daytonian of the Week.

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What do you do and why do you do it? 

That’s a loaded question.😂 I am the owner/director of the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC, a volunteer-based community outreach organization that works with area designers in building their brands, establishing their clientele, learning runway production, and editorial shoots. We also develop aspiring models by providing them with world-class runway experience, tearsheet quality images, and put them in front of the world’s top modeling agencies. 

In regards to why I do what I do, it’s both simple and complex. I sometimes refer to myself as the supermodel that never was. At the age of 12 back in 1992-93, my self-esteem was beneath the gutter. I was tall, thin awkward, had bucked teeth, 4 eyes, and a 5head. 😂 I was teased mercilessly, and as a way to improve my self-esteem Mom worked 3 jobs and enrolled me in Bette Massie modeling school in Centerville.

Daytonian of the Week Caressa Brown(Contributed)

After the first session, the instructor called me and my mom in for a meeting and told us that out of all of the models registered in the school, she believed that I had the most potential to actually become a model and waived the remaining tuition. Fast forward 5-6 weeks later. After attending “free” modeling classes, Bette Massie discovered that there was no money on the books for me and called my mom and me in for a meeting. Long story short, the instructor had not received Bette’s approval to waive my tuition, and Bette basically said we either pay or leave the program; we left the program. 

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However, later that year, I came across a casting call for an agency out of Cleveland that was scouting in Dayton and out of the 100+ models that were in attendance, I was the only one selected and offered a contract with the agency. We signed the contract. Shortly after, my mom was involved in an auto accident, and then later was diagnosed with Multiple-Sclerosis and could no longer work. So with my mom unable to work, we could not afford to travel to the agency or seek out work as a model. 

Fast forward several years later to 1998, I attended a modeling convention in Columbus, where I was scouted by the president of Click Models for their Atlanta agency. At the time, I had braces on so they wanted me to travel to Atlanta and start developing me while waiting for my braces to come off. However, I had just started working at General Motors, Truck and Bus in Moraine, just started my freshman year in college at Wright State on academic scholarship, and on top of that I was the caregiver for my mom and without having any additional support. I never made it to Atlanta work with Click. 

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In 2001, after attending a casting call at a mall in Cincinnati for the world’s top agency at the time, Elite, I was selected as regional semi-finalist in the Elite Model Look Competition, and the Scouting Director for Elite in Chicago offered me a contract. Aside from the fact that my braces were off, nothing had changed in regards to the load I was carrying on this time, I was flunking out of college, battling depression, working 50+ hr/week at GM, and still serving as a caregiver for my mom and I never made it back to Chicago to work with Elite. 

I said all of that to say this, I know what it’s like to have a dream and be so close that you can feel, taste, and see it and then have no support to help you obtain it. I do what I do to be the support system for area fashion professionals that I wish I had when I wanted to be a model and as a result of building a nurturing and strong support system for emerging talent we can say that designers have gained firsthand experience working behind the scenes of some of the top design houses for the former Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. Their designs have been featured on the covers of Vogue Africa and in the pages of Vogue Italia, and Essence magazines, they have also had their designs featured in music videos, commercial print, and film. Over 70 of our models have been signed to agencies around the globe. They have appeared on Project Runway, in the pages of Vogue, have been signed to some of the world's top modeling agencies including Factor, Red, and Next, and have walked for New York, Paris and Milan Fashion Week for designers like Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu and Versace. 

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Daytonian of the Week Caressa Brown(Contributed)

Cats, dogs, neither or something else? 

I’m about to lose a bunch of friends with this one; I’m a dog person. 😂 Most of my friends have cats; they’re just too shifty for me. 😂


What do you love about life in Dayton? 

I love the fact that Dayton has the small-town feel yet has big city opportunities. If you want a quick getaway, you’re only a few hours away from at least 8 major cities. Also, I’m a true foodie. I’ve had the opportunity to travel across the country and eat at some of the finest restaurants and nothing comes close to the amazing local cuisine and eateries in Dayton. 


What would you do on a perfect date in Dayton? 

I’m a pretty low-key person and enjoy the simple things so my idea of a perfect date in Dayton would be to take a long walk at one of the Metroparks, lay out a blanket, have a picnic and enjoy the serenity. 


Where do you go for a great time? 

I’m a big kid at heart, so I love Scene 75, I celebrated my 35th birthday there with a Ghostbusters cake a few years back. Plus I’m super competitive and I can allow my alter-ego to come out and talk trash while doing rapid-fire rounds in Laser Tag, defending the corner in go carts, and just beating the crap out of my friends and hoping that they are still my friends after I beat them. 😂


Why did you decide to settle in Dayton? 

I was born and raised right here in Dayton, and as my mom always says, “I’m Dayton born, Dayton bred, and when I die, I’m gonna be Dayton dead.” 😂

How did you get involved with your business? 

That’s another loaded question. 😂I never planned to start a fashion organization. I was essentially left holding the bags from the failed Dayton Fashion Week in 2012. A lot of people — self-included — were hurt, deceived, ripped off, and taken advantage of...

 >> Dayton Fashion Week launched  (July 23, 2012)

>> Are size 0 to 4 models too small? (Feb 10, 2012)

Several months after Dayton Fashion Week ended, I was approached by Lisa Grigsby and Billy Pote from Dayton Most Metro. They asked me if I would be interested in creating my own fashion organization, and if I did, they would back me up. After thinking about it and reaching out to a few friends and those who had been burned by Dayton Fashion Week, together we created this grassroots fashion movement called the Dayton Emerging Fashion Week (DE-FI) LLC; a lot of people think that we just renamed the company because 99% of the people who quit DFW after I walked away joined me in creating (DE-FI). 

We launched in July 2013, and invited all of the designers, sponsors, and talent that was burned by DFW to participate free of charge in our event; the businesses who had taken out ads in the Dayton Fashion Week magazine FIQ where all of the images were pixelated and of poor quality, we offered them a do over at our Fashion in the Mystic Garden Launch Party at SunWatch Indian Village, which was a sold-out event with 250+ people in attendance and gave them free ads in our magazine (DE-FI)ance. I went on to get about 5 seasons of behind the scenes experience at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York. We now own the rights to the name Dayton Fashion Week branded as Dayton Fashion Week by (DE-FI), and the rest as they say is history. 

What should people know about Dayton’s fashion community? 

The vast majority of the designers that we work with are self-taught, a few had to leave the city to receive a formal education in fashion. My ultimate goal is to have an accredited fashion design program right here in Dayton; the closest program is at Miami University, who rolled out their program about two years ago, we’ve had the pleasure of partnering with them on several occasions. 

Dayton’s fashion community is more than just models, designers and fashion shows. This is a $900 billion dollar a year industry that every major city in Ohio and across the country has embraced. There’s a need for photographers marketers, business managers, investors, writers, social media experts, legal advisors, accountants, hair and makeup artist, boutiques, wardrobe stylist, textile makers, sewist and seamstress, and so much more and (DE-FI) has made a place at the table for them all and we have people traveling from around the country to work with us. Every door that opens for me, I hold it open for the rest of my (DE-FI) family to enter. 

Dayton has the eyes of some of the most influential people in fashion watching what’s going on here because we’ve essentially taken every aspect of what makes New York City the fashion capital of the world and we are re-creating it right here in the Gem City, slowly but surely we are establishing a market that allows fashion to be a viable way to make a living in Dayton. 

In February of this year, I was invited to New York Fashion Week as a journalist for our magazine (DE-FI)ance as a fashion influencer by one of the most influential fashion producers in the industry. That alone was a game changer for our organization and we’ve been working on revising our strategic plan for the past couple of months to align with this heightened level of exposure that our talent is receiving. Last month we quietly rolled out our sewing and micro-manufacturing team to assist with our designers production of their lines as well as meet the needs of other businesses and boutiques that need sewing assistance. 

What is Dayton’s best hidden gem? 

Aside from (DE-FI) ;-) I’d have to say SunWatch Indian Village and Archaeological Park is my favorite hidden gem. 

>> 5 things you must experience at Sunwatch’s Pow Wow this weekend

What inspires you about Dayton? 

There’s no quit in this city. Things don’t always go as planned and we’ve had more than our fair share of bumps and bruises yet we have some of the most persistent, innovative, and empowering people that go hard for not only the city but their causes every day, and thanks to platforms like we have an opportunity to meet those hidden figures. 

If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be? 

Sometimes, I think we play it too safe as a city. We embrace what we understand and all too often recycle the exact same people to do the work leaving a lot of new talent disenfranchised or if they are included, it’s more or less of a symbolic gesture vs. a sincere attempt of embracing diversity of thought and growth. I’d love to see Dayton let down its guard, kick in a few doors and make a place at the table for everyone by creating a blue print as a guide for others to follow. Competition is not a bad thing. 

What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years? 

In 10-15 years, we’re going to have Generation Z running things in Dayton, this is a generation that knows no limits and has already made its mark on the culture. It’s going to be an exciting time to be a Daytonian, I’ve got my running shoes on and ready to keep pace.

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